U.S. Department of State
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor,
Greece Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998
February 26, 1998
Greece is a constitutional republic and multiparty parliamentary democracy
in which citizens choose their representatives in free and fair elections.
The Panhellenic Socialist Movement (pasok) holds a majority of
parliamentary seats, and its leader, Constantine Simitis, has been Prime
Minister since 1996. The New Democracy Party is the main opposition party.
The judiciary is independent.
The national police and security services are responsible for internal
security. Civilian authorities maintain effective control of all security
forces, and police and security services are subject to a broad variety of
restraints. Some members of the police and security forces nevertheless
committed human rights abuses.
Greece has a market economy with a large public sector that accounts for
some 40 percent of gross domestic product. Residents enjoy a relatively
advanced standard of living. Greece is a large net recipient of funds from
the European Union, designed primarily to raise per capita gross domestic
The Government respected the human rights of most citizens; however,
problems remained in some areas, although there was notable progress in
others. Security force personnel sometimes abused suspects and illegal
aliens. The Government continued to take corrective action to relieve
severe overcrowding and harsh living conditions in some prisons. Despite
religious leaders‚ acknowledgment of a general improvement in government
tolerance, some restrictions on freedom of religion persisted; police
continued to arrest members of non-Orthodox religions for proselytizing.
However, the Government created a program of alternative military service
for conscientious objectors. It sometimes placed human rights monitors,
non-Orthodox religious groups, and minority groups under surveillance. In
a significant step, the Government formally abolished Article 19 of the
Citizenship Code, which had been used to revoke the citizenship of Greeks
who are not ethnically Greek. Although the Government has used Article 20
of the Citizenship Code to revoke the citizenship of some Greek citizens
abroad who asserted a "Macedonian" ethnicity, no such cases were reported
during the year. Discrimination against ethnic minorities continued to be
a problem. The Government formally recognizes only the Muslim minority
specified in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne; it refuses to acknowledge
formally the existence of any other ethnic groups, principally Slavophones,
under the term "minority." As a result, some individuals who define
themselves as members of a minority find it difficult to express their
identity freely and to maintain their culture.
In September a government Ombudsman‚s office was opened. In December a
National Committee for Human Rights was commissioned formally.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
There were no reports of political killings.
A Romani man was killed in Partheni in April when he refused to stop his
car for inspection. Police claimed that they exchanged gunfire with the
subject in self-defense. A trial of the policemen involved was pending at
In September a botched hostage rescue operation in Athens resulted in the
death of the hostage victim. The hostage-taker subsequently died in a
hospital under suspicious circumstances. The chief of police who was in
charge of the operation resigned in December. In December a public
prosecutor charged seven doctors with manslaughter based on the medical
treatment that the prisoner received.
In November a policeman shot a foreign student accused of purse snatching
at point blank range. The policeman was charged with first degree murder.
A trial date had not yet been set by year‚s end.
In 1996 a Romani man was shot and killed by a police officer while lying
face down on the pavement at a police roadblock in Livadia. The officer
was charged with involuntary manslaughter, but there was no resolution of
the case by year‚s end.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or
The Constitution specifically forbids torture, and a 1984 law makes the use
of torture an offense punishable by a sentence of 3 years' to life
imprisonment. This law has never been invoked. However, security force
personnel sometimes abused suspects during arrests and interrogations and
abused illegal aliens. Police also abused Roma (see Section 5).
In July two Albanian teenagers arrested for theft accused police officials
of beating them while in custody. One revealed burns in addition to
bruises. Albanian diplomats reported the condition of the teenagers to the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In August an investigation by the Ministry of
Public Order found the police innocent of any abuse.
In May two Romani teenagers claimed that they were beaten while in police
custody for attempting to steal ice cream from a kiosk. A trial was
pending at year‚s end.
In the 1996 case of five policemen who beat a man in Iraklion, four of the
officers were suspended from duty for 15 days. Charges filed by the
individual were still pending trial at year‚s end. The court dismissed the
charges in a 1996 incident in Thessaloniki in which police were accused of
beating a man charged with robbery.
Conditions in some prisons remained poor due to substantial overcrowding
and outdated facilities. As of September 17, the Ministry of Justice
reported that the total prison population was 7,129 (of whom approximately
3,221 were foreigners), while total capacity of the prison system was 4,
Throughout the summer, detainees at the Drapetsona police detention center
staged hunger strikes to protest conditions described by a human rights
organization as "lack of adequate exercise, lack of natural daylight,
insufficient toilet and bath facilities, severely limited access to medical
treatment and no access to social services." The detainees are all non-
European Union citizens awaiting deportation.
In September the Minister of Justice dismissed the prison inspector for
"insufficient performance" of his duties.
The Ministry of Justice contracted for renovation of existing prisons,
solicited bids for construction of 9 new prisons, and announced the hiring
of 1,300 prison guards (to replace police who currently guard prisons).
Construction is proceeding on a new center for the rehabilitation of
narcotics addicts; it is scheduled to open in early 1999. The center is
designed to house 350 inmates and is to cooperate with the organization for
combating narcotics (Okana) to provide detoxification and rehabilitation
programs for inmates.
The Government is inconsistent in permitting prison visits by
nongovernmental organizations (NGO‚s).
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The Constitution requires judicial warrants for all arrests, except during
the actual commission of a crime, and the law prohibits arbitrary arrest
orders. Police must, by law, bring persons who are arrested on the basis
of a warrant or while committing a crime before an examining magistrate
within 24 hours. The magistrate must issue a detention warrant or order
the release of the detainee within 3 days, unless special circumstances
require a 2-day extension of this time limit.
Defendants brought to court before the end of the day following the
commission of a charged offense may be tried immediately, under a "speedy
procedure." Although legal safeguards, including representation by counsel,
apply in speedy procedure cases, the short period of time may inhibit the
defendant's ability to present an adequate defense. Defendants may ask for
a delay to provide time to prepare their defense, but the court is not
obliged to grant it. The speedy procedure was used in less than 10 percent
of misdemeanor cases. It does not apply to felonies.
The effective maximum duration of pretrial detention is 18 months for
felonies and 9 months for misdemeanors. Defense lawyers complain that
pretrial detention is overly long and overused by judges. A panel of
judges may grant release pending trial, with or without bail. Pretrial
detainees made up 28.5 percent of those incarcerated, contributing to
overcrowding problems, according to Government sources. A person convicted
of a misdemeanor and sentenced to 2 years or less may, at the court's
discretion, pay a fine instead of being imprisoned.
Exile is unconstitutional, and no cases have been reported since the
restoration of democracy in 1974. In a significant step, the Government
repealed Article 19 of the Citizenship Code in June (with effect
retroactively to January when the Government introduced the legislation).
This article had permitted the Government to deprive Greek citizens of non-
Greek ethnic origin who traveled outside Greece of their citizenship and
refuse them readmittance. Human rights groups sought to make the repeal
even more retroactive and have encouraged the Government to facilitate
individuals' application to reacquire citizenship. Human rights monitors
estimate that there are between 400 and 1,200 individuals who lost
citizenship under Article 19 and who continue to reside in Greece. Members
of the Muslim community noted that a number of these persons have succeeded
in reacquiring citizenship (also see Section 2.d.).
Article 20 of the Citizenship Code, which permits the Government to strip
citizenship from those who "commit acts contrary to the interests of Greece
for the benefit of a foreign state," remained in force. The Government did
not provide statistics on citizens affected by this article in 1998, but no
cases were reported publicly during the year. In the past those affected
were citizens abroad who asserted a "Macedonian" ethnicity (also see
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution provides for the independence of the judiciary; it is
independent in practice.
The judicial system includes three levels of courts, appointed judges, an
examining magistrate system, and trial by judicial panels.
The Constitution provides for public trials, and trial court sessions are
open to the public, unless the court decides that privacy is required to
protect victims and witnesses, or the cases involve national security
matters. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence, the standard of
proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the right to present evidence and
call witnesses, the right of access to the prosecution's evidence, the
right to cross-examine witnesses, and the right to counsel. Lawyers are
provided to defendants who are not able to afford legal counsel only in
felony cases. Both the prosecution and the defense have the right of
Defendants who do not speak Greek have the right to a court-appointed
interpreter. The low fees paid for such work often result in poor
translation. Foreign defendants who depend on these interpreters
frequently complain that they do not understand their trials.
The legal system does not discriminate against women or minorities, with
some exceptions: the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs may base
its decision on "house of prayer" permit applications by non-Orthodox
groups on the opinion of the local Orthodox bishop (see Section 2.c.); non-
ethnic Greek citizens are prohibited legally from settling in a large
"supervised zone" near the frontier (although this prohibition is not
enforced in practice); and a 1939 law (also not enforced in practice)
prohibits the functioning of private schools in buildings owned by non-
Orthodox religious foundations.
There were no reports of political prisoners.
f. Arbitrary Interference With Privacy, Family, Home, or
The Constitution prohibits invasion of privacy and searches without
warrants, and the law permits the monitoring of personal communications
only under strict judicial controls. The efficacy of these safeguards
remains an open question. The security services continued to monitor human
rights groups (see Section 4), non-Orthodox religious groups, minority
group representatives, and foreign diplomats who met with such individuals.
On several occasions the press published information about such private
meetings. Human rights activists reported suspicious openings and
diversions of mail. As far as is known, the Government took no steps to
stop such practices or to prosecute those involved.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, and the
Government generally respected these rights in practice, but with
exceptions. Legal restrictions on free speech remain in force and were
used in some cases by the Government.
Articles of the Penal Code that can be used to restrict free speech and the
press include Article 141, which forbids exposing the friendly relations of
the Greek state with foreign states to danger of disturbance; Article 191,
which prohibits spreading false information and rumors liable to create
concern and fear among citizens and cause disturbances in the country's
international relations and inciting citizens to rivalry and division,
leading to disturbance of the peace; and Article 192, which prohibits
inciting citizens to acts of violence or to disturbing the peace through
disharmony among them. Those convicted in the past were allowed to convert
their convictions into a fine of approximately $14 per day.
In September two journalists in separate cases were convicted and received
4-month and 8-month suspended sentences respectively on defamation charges
for criticizing government ministers. Both cases are under appeal. In
October two journalists charged in a 1997 case with espionage for
publishing confidential government documents were acquitted.
The public prosecutor in Florina invoked these laws on several occasions in
recent years, although not in 1998, in attempts to limit the Rainbow
Party's use of Slavic names for Greek towns. In September a court declared
innocent four officials of the Rainbow Party charged in 1995 with violating
Article 192 when a bilingual sign hung outside party headquarters in
Florina sparked a riot. The four stated that they intended only to inform
the bilingual public of the existence of the office. A Rainbow Party
official charged in 1996 under Article 191 for attempting to bring wall
calendars into the country that identified Greek cities by their Slavic
names was acquitted in November.
On matters other than the question of ethnic minorities, Greece generally
enjoys a tradition of outspoken public discourse and a vigorous free press.
Satirical and opposition newspapers routinely attack the highest state
authorities. Members of ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities
freely publish periodicals and other publications, often in their native
language. The Constitution allows for seizure (though not prior restraint),
by order of the public prosecutor, of publications that insult the
President, offend religious beliefs, contain obscene articles, advocate
violent overthrow of the political system, or disclose military and defense
information. However, seizures have been rare; none occurred in
A dictionary of modern Greek published in May generated several lawsuits
from individuals who found certain definitions offensive. In July a trial
court in Thessaloniki ordered removal of one definition from future
editions of the dictionary and threatened the author with a fine and
imprisonment if he did not comply. The Supreme Court prosecutor suspended
the decision pending review of the case by the Court later in the year. In
February the Supreme Court upheld a 1997 appellate court ruling that
sentenced Muslim journalist Abdulhalim Dede to a 6-month suspended sentence
and 3 years‚ probation for libel. Dede originally was charged in 1996
under Article 191 (on which he was acquitted) and libel laws for an article
he wrote about extremist groups in Thrace.
The Constitution provides that the state exercise "immediate control" over
radio and television. The state monopoly on radio and television ended in
1989, and a plethora of private stations quickly emerged. A 1995 law
places ownership and technical frequency limits on the electronic media.
The licensing of radio stations began in late 1996, and the licensing of
television stations began in 1997. State-run stations tended to emphasize
the Government's views but also reported objectively on other parties'
programs and positions. Private radio and television stations operated
independently of any government control over their reporting. Turkish-
language television programs are widely available via satellite in
Resolution of the television station Antenna's appeal of a $350,000 (100
million drachmas) fine imposed in 1997 by the National Radio and Television
Council (NRTC) remained pending at year‚s end. The NRTC fined the
television station and ordered it to suspend normal programming for 10
minutes daily for 5 days after an episode of the Antenna "reality show"
allegedly caused a man accused of incest to commit suicide before its
broadcast. The Ministry of Press and Mass Media approved the Council's
The case of Radio Isik, a Turkish-language station in Komotini, charged
with operating without a license in 1994 and 1995, is still pending.
In September Abdulhalim Dede, the Muslim owner of Radio Isik, was sentenced
to 8 months' imprisonment for illegal construction when he erected a base
for a new radio antenna intended to extend the range of the station. The
sentence was suspended pending appeal. Dede charged that the Government
arrested him in order to block expansion of the station's range, noting
that the law under which he was convicted is violated widely and rarely, if
Academic freedom is respected.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly, and the Government
respects this right in practice. Police permits were issued routinely for
public demonstrations, and there were no reports that the permit
requirement was abused.
The Constitution provides for the right of association, which was respected
except in cases involving ethnic minorities. In July the European Court of
Human Rights held unanimously that Greek courts had violated Article 11 of
the European Convention on Human Rights by refusing to register the "Home
of Macedonian Civilization" (as translated by the court) in Florina in
1990. The court rejected the Government's argument that registration of
the organization represented a danger to Greece's territorial integrity and
ordered the Government to pay monetary damages to the organization‚s
Government authorities legally recognize the existence of the Muslim
minority but not other minorities (see Section 5). The 1990 Copenhagen
document of the then-Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, to
which the Government is a signatory asserts, however, that "to belong to a
national minority is a matter of a person's individual choice."
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution establishes the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ, to
which 95 to 97 percent of the population at least nominally adhere, as the
prevailing religion, and the Orthodox Church wields significant political
and economic influence. The Constitution also provides for freedom of
religion; however, non-Orthodox groups face administrative obstacles or
legal restrictions on religious practice. The Constitution also prohibits
proselytism. Two laws from the 1930's require that to hold services,
"known" religious groups must obtain a "house of prayer" permit from the
Ministry of Education and Religion, which by law may base its decision on
the opinion of the local Orthodox bishop. No formal mechanism exists to
seek recognition as a known religion. Ministry of Education and Religious
Affairs officials say that they no longer obtain the opinion of the local
Orthodox bishop when considering "house of prayer" permit applications.
According to ministry officials, all pending applications have been issued.
Leaders of minority religions noted a general improvement in government
tolerance during the year, citing fewer arrests for proselytizing and the
new conscientious objector law.
In February an appeals court upheld the 1994 conviction for usurpation of
religious authority of a former Greek Orthodox cleric. The individual was
defrocked in 1993 after asserting that he was a priest in a church not
recognized as a "known" religion. The 1-year sentence was suspended
pending appeal. He since sought permission to operate a place of worship,
but the Government asserts that he did not file a valid application.
Several religious denominations reported difficulties in dealing with the
authorities on a variety of administrative matters. Privileges and legal
prerogatives granted to the Greek Orthodox Church are not extended
routinely to other recognized religions. The non-Greek Orthodox churches
must make separate and lengthy applications to government authorities on
such matters as arranging appointments to meet with Ministry of Education
and Religion officials and gaining permission to move places of worship to
A tax bill passed in 1997 created three new taxes on churches and other
nonprofit organizations. Leaders of some non-Orthodox religious groups
claimed that all taxes on religious organizations were discriminatory, even
those that the Orthodox Church has to pay, since the Government subsidizes
the Orthodox Church while other groups are self-supporting.
Religious instruction in public primary and secondary schools is mandatory
for Greek Orthodox students. Non-Orthodox students are exempt from this
Police occasionally detained Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses after
receiving complaints that the individuals were engaged in proselytism. In
most cases, the individuals were held for several hours at a police station
and then released with no charges filed. Many reported that they were not
allowed to call their lawyers and that they were verbally abused by police
officers for their religious beliefs. In February the European Court of
Human Rights found Greece in violation of the European Convention on Human
Rights for convicting Protestants of proselytism in past cases. There were
no prosyletism-related court cases during the year.
The trial of 15 members of the boards of Scientologist associations charged
by the Government with "unprovoked factual insult" is scheduled for
February 1999. The board members were charged in October 1996 following a
police search of Scientology headquarters that revealed a file of press
clippings on Greek opposition to Scientology.
Early in the year, four teachers were reinstated (three to their original
positions and one to an administrative position) after a 1997 investigation
by the Ministry of Education and Religion found that they had not
proselytized their students. The teachers are members of the Church of
Christians, a nondenominational Protestant church.
Although Jehovah's Witnesses are recognized as a "known" religion, in
previous years the military consistently refused to exempt their clergy
from mandatory military service. This practice was found to be in
violation of Articles 5 and 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights by
the European Court of Human Rights in two decisions reached in 1997. In
January a law providing an alternative form of mandatory national service
for conscientious objectors took effect. It provides that conscientious
objectors may work in state hospitals or municipal services for 36 months.
Conscientious objector groups generally characterized the legislation as a
"positive first step" but criticized the 36-month alternative service term,
which is double the regular 18-month period of military service. Since
January all Jehovah's Witnesses, both clergy and laymen, who wished to
submit applications for alternative nonmilitary service were permitted to
do so. In one case, an application was submitted late and the applicant
was instructed to appear for mandatory military service. The applicant
appealed this decision; the results of the appeal are pending.
Mosques operate freely in Western Thrace and on the islands of Rhodes and
Kos, where most citizens of the Muslim faith reside. Local officials
delayed expansion of a mosque in Kimmeria, near Xanthi for over a year, at
one point prosecuting 17 Muslim workman for ignoring a stop-work order.
Under public pressure, officials relented in late 1997 and construction of
the mosque was completed. Its minaret remained unfinished even after the
building permit was approved, reportedly in response to objections from
local Orthodox officials.
Differences remain within the Muslim community and between segments of the
community and the government over the means of selection of muftis (Islamic
judges and religious leaders with limited civil responsibilities). Under a
1990 presidential decree, the government appointed two muftis and one
assistant mufti in Greece, all resident in Thrace. The appointments (made
in 1991) were based on the recommendations of a committee of Muslim
notables selected by the government. The government argued that it must
appoint the muftis because, in addition to their religious duties, they
perform judicial functions in many civil and domestic matters under Muslim
religious law, for which the state pays them.
Some Muslims accept the authority of the two officially appointed muftis;
other Muslims, backed by Turkey, have "elected" two different muftis to
serve their communities (though there is no established procedure or
practice for "election"). Three times in 1998 the Government convicted
Mehmet Emin Aga, one of the "elected" muftis, of usurping the authority of
the official mufti. Earlier convictions (eight over 3 years) against Aga
were upheld on appeal on four occasions. All of the respective sentences
remain suspended pending appeal. The other "elected" mufti, who was
convicted in 1991 of usurping the authority of the official mufti, has
appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, where his case is
Controversy between the Muslim community and the Government also continues
over the management and self-government of the "wakfs" (Muslim charitable
organizations) regarding the appointment of officials as well as the degree
and type of administrative control. A 1980 law placed the administration
of the wakfs in the hands of the appointed muftis and their representatives.
In response to objections from some Muslims that this arrangement weakens
the financial autonomy of the wakfs and violates the terms of the Treaty of
Lausanne, a 1996 presidential decree put the wakfs under the administration
of a committee for 3 years as an interim measure pending resolution of
Muslim activists complained that the Government regularly lodges tax liens
against the wakfs, although they are in theory tax-free religious
foundations. Recent legislation to create a national land and property
registry requires the wakfs also to register all of their property with the
government. The legislation permits the government to seize any property
that owners are not able to document. To date the government has not
sought to enforce either the tax liens or the registration requirement.
Some non-Greek Orthodox religious leaders assert that their followers face
discrimination in reaching the senior ranks of government service. In the
military, generally only members of the Greek Orthodox faith become
officers, leading some members of other faiths to declare themselves
Orthodox. Only two Muslim officers have advanced to the rank of reserve
The Government took no action to implement or repeal a 1991 law mandating
that citizens declare their religion on new standardized identity cards
based on European Union (EU) standards, which could be used for internal EU
travel. Current identity cards contain a space for religion that may be
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration,
The Constitution calls for freedom of movement within and outside the
country and the right to return. However, Muslim leaders asserted that
Muslims face administrative obstacles regarding their voter registration
when seeking to change their legal residence within or to the region of
In a significant step, the Government formally abolished Article 19 of the
Citizenship Code, which had been repealed in June 1997. Article 19 was
used to revoke the citizenship of Greeks who are not ethnically Greek (also
see Section 1.d.).
However, another section of the Citizenship Code, Article 20, permits the
government to strip citizenship from those who "commit acts contrary to the
interests of Greece for the benefit of a foreign state." While the law as
written applies equally to all Greeks regardless of ethnic background, to
date it has been enforced in all but one case against citizens who
identified themselves as members of the "Macedonian" minority. The
Government would not reveal the number of Article 20 cases that it pursued
in 1998, although there were no reports of such cases. Dual citizens who
are stripped of Greek citizenship under Article 20 sometimes are prevented
from entering the country using the passport of their second nationality.
The Government maintains restricted military zones along the country‚s
borders. Authorities do not restrict Greek citizens from entering these
zones, but in 1998 several foreigners were refused official permission to
enter a restricted zone.
The Government offers asylum under the terms of the 1951 United Nations
(U.N.) Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.
It cooperates with the local office of the U.N. High Commissioner for
Refugees. Implementation of 1996 legislation that abolished the
requirement that asylum seekers submit their applications immediately after
entering the country still is pending approval by the President.
Individuals recognized as refugees under the terms of the U.N. Refugee
Convention are eligible for the residence and work permits necessary to
resettle permanently. New legislation passed in June allows aliens who
have submitted an application but have not yet been granted refugee status
to work legally.
In the first 6 months of 1998, 1,757 individuals submitted applications for
refugee status; 127 individuals were granted refugee status. Of those
refused refugee status 246 were granted temporary residence on humanitarian
grounds until return to their countries of origin becomes possible.
The Government usually does not recognize the concept of first asylum.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that thousands of individuals from Turkey, Iraq,
and Iran enter illegally each year; only a small percentage eventually
apply for official refugee status. Some of those who do not apply remain
illegally, often living in government camps where conditions vary from
adequate to very poor. Others proceed on to Western Europe, often applying
for asylum there. The Government does usually not seek out such
individuals for deportation; since Greece and Turkey do not have a
readmission agreement, the Government finds it practically impossible to
deport individuals who enter Greece from Turkey.
During the last 5 months of the year, between 300 and 600 Iraqi Kurds set
up camp in a square in central Athens. Activists and NGO‚s charged that
the Government was not providing adequate assistance to these individuals.
In December the UNHCR criticized the lack of a coherent, functioning asylum
process and the fact that the Government continued to deport forcibly some
potential asylum seekers back to their country of origin (or to the country
from which they entered Greece) before they could submit formal
applications for asylum. Human rights organizations state that this
practice occurred more frequently in 1998 than in previous years, although
precise figures are unavailable. In May and July, police deported
approximately 110 Albanian workers (allegedly holding valid Greek visas)
In January legislation was enacted allowing illegal immigrants to apply for
legal status. Illegal immigrants could submit the preliminary application
for legal status from January until the end of May. Approximately 350,000
illegal immigrants submitted applications and received a "white card." The
white card enables them to reside and work legally in Greece on a short-
term basis while meeting the other requirements necessary to obtain a
"green card." The green card serves as a residence permit and allows the
immigrants to live and work in the country for up to 5 years.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to
Change Their Government
Greece is a multiparty democracy whose Constitution provides for full
political rights for all citizens and for the peaceful change of
governments and of the Constitution. The Government headed by Prime
Minister Constantine Simitis of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK)
won in free and fair elections in September 1996. Parliament elects the
President for a 5-year term. Voting is mandatory for those over age 18,
but there are many conditions that allow citizens not to vote, and
penalties are not applied in practice. Members of the unicameral 300-seat
Parliament are elected to maximum 4-year terms by secret ballot.
Opposition parties function freely and have broad access to the
Although there are no legal restrictions on the participation of women or
minorities in government or politics, representation of both at the higher
levels of political life remains low. Women held 2 ministerial positions
in the Government and only 1 of 29 subministerial positions. Of the 300
members of Parliament, 17 were women. Women are underrepresented in the
leadership of the two largest parties. The head of the Communist Party is
While the Government generally respects citizens' political rights, there
are sometimes charges that it limits the right of some individuals to speak
publicly and associate freely on the basis of their self-proclaimed ethnic
identity, thus impinging on the political rights of such persons. However,
in the 1996 parliamentary elections three Muslim deputies were elected in
Thrace, one each from PASOK, New Democracy, and the Coalition of the Left.
Romani representatives report that local authorities sometimes deprive Roma
of the right to vote by refusing to register them. However, Romani
activists also report that some municipalities encourage Roma to register.
Municipalities can refuse to register Roma who do not meet basic residency
requirements, which many Roma have trouble meeting.
In 1996 the Government transferred responsibility for oversight of all
rights provided to the Muslim minority under the Treaty of Lausanne
(including education, zoning, administration of the wakfs, and trade) from
elected local governors to the government-appointed periferiarch (a
regional administrative official) of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace.
Minority members charged that the transfer reduced their ability to use the
democratic process to influence decisions that affect them. They also
charged that the transfer opened the possibility of unequal application of
local laws, because it created a situation in which Muslims and non-Muslims
must go to different government offices to apply for documents such as
building permits. The Government stated that it made the change because
the central authorities could administer Greece‚s treaty obligations more
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human
The Government allows domestic human rights organizations to operate, but
cooperation with them varies. In principle it does not prohibit foreign
diplomats from meeting with officials and other citizens, including critics
of official policy. However, the security services on occasion monitor
contacts of human rights groups, including listening in on conversations
held between those groups and human rights investigators and diplomats, and
questioning contacts (see Section 1.f.). Monitors view this activity as a
form of intimidation that deters others from meeting with investigators.
In July the Ministry of the Interior announced the establishment of a
National Human Rights Committee, consisting of government officials and NGO
representatives, that reports to the Prime Minister. The Committee,
formally commissioned in December, monitors the human rights situation and
drafts legislation on human rights issues. In September an "Ombudsman‚s"
office was opened pursuant to a 1997 law to mediate differences that
citizens and migrants encounter in their dealings with government offices.
One of the four deputy ombudsmen is responsible for human rights
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability,
Language, or Social Status
The Constitution provides for equality before the law and the full
protection of individual life, honor, and freedom irrespective of
nationality, race, language, or religious or political belief. Government
respect for these rights in practice is uneven.
The Government formally recognizes only the Muslim minority specified in
the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. It refuses to acknowledge formally the
existence of any other ethnic groups, principally Slavophones, under the
term "minority." As a result, some individuals who define themselves as
members of a minority find it difficult to express their identity freely
and to maintain their culture.
The incidence of violence against women that is reported to the authorities
is low, but Athens' Equality Secretariat, which operates the only shelter
for battered women, believes the actual incidence is "high." According to
the Ministry of Public Order, 217 cases of rape were reported in 1997
compared with 183 cases in 1996. The General Secretariat for Equality of
the Sexes (GSES), an independent government agency, asserts that police
tend to discourage women from pursuing domestic violence charges and
instead undertake reconciliation efforts, although they are neither
qualified for nor charged with this task. The GSES also claims that the
courts are lenient when dealing with domestic violence cases. Facilities
for battered women and their children exist but are often inadequately
staffed to handle cases properly.
Prostitution is legal. Prostitutes must register at the local police
station and carry a medical card that is updated every 2 weeks. A Panteion
University study reported that the number of foreign prostitutes quadrupled
between 1991 and 1995. The study estimates the current number of
prostitutes to be 16,000. In October and November, the media reported a
series of scandals involving foreign women forced into prostitution. One
woman was seriously injured after attempting to escape her situation by
jumping from a fifth floor window. Another committed suicide after she
allegedly called the police for help and was told to make a written
complaint. In October nine police officers in western Greece were arrested
and charged with harboring a criminal and abuse of power for protecting a
nightclub owner who forced foreign women to work as prostitutes. In the
same month, three police officers in northern Greece were charged with the
same offense. In November 11 police officials were charged with improper
issuance of residence permits to foreign women and protecting a brothel in
Athens. The former chief of police was charged with dereliction of duty
for the improper issuance of a residence permit to a foreign
According to the police, trafficking in women for prostitution, mostly from
the former Soviet Union, Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania, has increased
sharply in recent years. The Ministry of Public Order reports that of the
221 foreigners arrested for prostitution without a license in the first 8
months of 1998, 85 were from Albania and 89 were from the former Soviet
Union. According to the Panteion University study, 75 percent of foreign
female prostitutes are not told why they are being brought to Greece. In
1997 police estimated that foreigners constituted 2,000 of the estimated 5,
000 prostitutes in Greece. From August 1997 to August 1998, 221 foreign
prostitutes were arrested for illegal prostitution.
In March a court in Patras sentenced a male supermarket manager to 10
months‚ imprisonment for the sexual harassment of a female subordinate.
The decision of the court marked the first ever penal sentence for sexual
harassment in the country. Trade unions report that lawsuits for sexual
harassment have been very rare: according to the unions, only four women
have filed such charges in the past 2 years. In all four cases, the courts
reportedly imposed very lenient civil sentences. The General Confederation
of Greek Workers (GSEE) women‚s section states that sexual harassment is a
widespread phenomenon, but that women are discouraged from filing charges
against perpetrators by family members and other coworkers.
Women enjoy broad constitutional and legal protection, including equal pay
for equal work. However, the GSES and labor unions maintain that women
receive lower salaries overall than men because they are hired for lower-
level jobs. The National Statistical Service's most recent data (the
second quarter of 1997) show that women's salaries in manufacturing were 70
percent of those of men in comparable positions; in retail sales, women's
salaries were 87 percent of those of men in comparable positions. These
same groups claim that women face a "glass ceiling" when they are
considered for promotions in both the public and private sectors. Although
there are still relatively few women in senior positions, in recent years
women have entered traditionally male-dominated occupations such as the
legal and medical professions in larger numbers.
According to a report by the women‚s section of the GSEE, 58.6 percent of
the country‚s long-term unemployed are women, while women constitute only
38 percent of the work force. The report also noted that women are
underrepresented in labor union decisionmaking centers; there are only 3
women on the 45-member board of directors of the GSEE, and only 133 of 2,
067 top-level trade unionists are women. The report concludes that the
underrepresentation of women is the reason that the women‚s section has
failed to accomplish its major goals, including the establishment of a
"women in trade unions network" and the enactment of trade union
affirmative action programs.
The Government is committed to providing adequate basic health and
education services for children. Education is compulsory through the ninth
grade and free through university. Penal law prohibits the mistreatment of
children and sets penalties for violators, while welfare legislation
enacted in 1992 established preventive and treatment programs for abused
children and for children deprived of a family environment; it also sought
to ensure the availability of alternative family care or institutional
Several Government organizations have responsibility for children's issues.
The National Welfare Organization, which has a nationwide network of
offices, is active in the field of child protection. Legislation was
passed late in the year to combine the National Welfare Organization with
two similar entities in 1999. The Services of the new single organization
are to be regionalized to provide greater access to child welfare services
and funding prioritized according to regional needs. In November the
Government created an Interministerial Committee for Youth and
According to the Institute of Child Health (ICH), a research center under
the Ministry of Health and Welfare, physical punishment is widely regarded
as a socially acceptable method of disciplining children. In the most
recent ICH study, 65 percent of mothers and 55 percent of fathers told
surveyors that they punished their children physically. The use of such
measures decreased over the years as parents learned about the benefits of
alternative forms of punishment.
There is no societal pattern of abuse of children. No national data exist
on the incidence of child abuse; local authorities are not required to
report such cases. In a 10-year clinical study of 200 cases, the ICH
reports that 59.5 percent involved physical abuse, 20 percent involved
neglect, and 21 percent involved children who were not abused at the time
but had a history of abuse. (The study did not cover victims of sexual
abuse.) An ICH prevalence study of child sexual abuse among 740 university
students revealed an incidence rate of 7 percent among boys and 17 percent
among girls prior to age 18. Societal abuse of children in the form of
pornography and child labor is rare. Child prostitution is a growing
phenomenon, particularly in some parts of central Athens.
Child health specialists say that some social groups, such as Roma and
illegal immigrants, are underserved. Children's rights advocacy groups
claim that protection of high-risk children in state residential care
centers is inadequate and of low quality. They cite a lack of coordination
between welfare services and the courts, inadequate funding of the welfare
system, and poor staffing of residential care centers as systemic
weaknesses in the treatment of child abuse. Child health specialists note
that the number of children in residential care facilities is decreasing,
while the number in foster care is rising.
In recent years, the number of street children who panhandle or peddle at
city intersections on behalf of adult family members or for criminal gangs
has increased. In November the Ministries of Public Order and Welfare
began to implement a plan to return the approximately 3,000 street children
in Athens to their families or to place them in state institutions.
According to the Ministry of Public Order, 78 percent of these children are
Albanian, 12 percent are from other Balkan countries, and 10 percent are
Romani. Parents can reclaim their children but risk deportation if they
are illegal immigrants.
People With Disabilities
Legislation mandates the hiring of disabled persons in public and private
enterprises employing more than 50 persons. However, the law reportedly is
enforced poorly, particularly in the private sector. The law states that
disabled persons should constitute 3 percent of staff in private
enterprises. In the civil service, 5 percent of administrative staff and
80 percent of telephone operator positions are reserved for disabled
persons. Legislation passed in June mandates the hiring of disabled
persons in the public sector from a priority list. The disabled are exempt
from the civil service exam. The Ministry of Labor announced in July the
creation of 660 subsidized jobs for 3 years for the disabled. Persons with
disabilities have been appointed to important positions in the civil
The Construction Code mandates physical access for disabled persons to
private and public buildings, but this law too is enforced poorly. A
recent survey showed that over 60 percent of public buildings are not
accessible to persons with mobility problems. Ramps and special curbs for
the disabled have been constructed on some Athens streets and at some
public buildings, and sound signals have been installed at some city street
crossings. Since 1993 the Government has been replacing old city buses
with new ones with stairs specially designed for the disabled. The new
Athens subway lines under construction reportedly are designed to provide
full access for the disabled.
In April a bomb was discovered in front of the Athens offices of the
Central Board of the Jewish Communities in Greece. The Government launched
an investigation, but those responsible have not been found. In August a
Jewish cemetery in Kavala was vandalized. An investigation into this
incident (as is the case with a 1997 vandalization in Trikala) produced no
An increase in xenophobia paralleled the increase in the number of non-
Greeks living and working in the country. Antiforeigner sentiment is
mainly directed against Albanians (who compose over three-fifths of the
alien population). When the head of a small community in northern Greece
attempted to impose a curfew on illegal Albanian immigrants in May, a
superior authority immediately repealed it. Local officials in the
Peloponnese publicly urged cafeteria owners not to serve Albanians and
landlords to avoid renting to non-Greeks. The African community in Athens
charged that the killing of a young Nigerian man who was selling watches
near a stadium in April was a racist act. All political parties and human
rights NGO‚s condemned the act. The perpetrators are in jail awaiting
trial for murder.
There are communities that identify themselves as Turks, Pomaks, Vlachs,
Roma, Arvanites (who speak a dialect of Albanian), and "Macedonians" or
"SlavoMacedonians." Most are fully integrated into society. The
Government formally recognizes only the "Muslim minority" specified in the
1923 Treaty of Lausanne, applying the term to several different ethnic
communities. Most of the Muslim minority (officially estimated at 120,000
persons) is ethnically Turkish or Turcophone and lives in western Thrace.
The Muslim minority also includes Pomaks and Roma. Many Greek Muslims,
including Pomaks, identify themselves as Turks and say that the Muslim
minority as a whole has a Turkish cultural consciousness. While use of the
terms "Tourkos" and "Tourkikos" ("Turk" and "Turkish") is prohibited in
titles of organizations, individuals may legally call themselves "Tourkos."
Use of a similar adjective, "Tourkoyennis" (of Turkish descent, affiliation,
or ethnicity) is allowed. To most Greeks, the words "Tourkos" and
"Tourkikos" connote Turkish identity or loyalties, and many object to their
use by Greek citizens of Turkish origin. The 8-month prison sentences of a
dozen Muslim teachers, convicted in 1996 for using the name "Turkish
Teachers of Western Thrace" in a union document, remained suspended pending
The Treaty of Lausanne provides that the Muslim minority has the right to
Turkish-language education, with a reciprocal entitlement for the Greek
minority in Istanbul (now reduced to about 3,000). Western Thrace has both
Koranic and secular Turkish-language schools. Government disputes with
Turkey over teachers and textbooks caused these secular schools serious
problems in obtaining faculty and teaching materials in sufficient number
and quality. Under a 1952 educational protocol, Greece and Turkey may
exchange annually 35 teachers on a reciprocal basis. The teachers serve in
Istanbul and Western Thrace, respectively, but in recent years the Greek
side limited the exchanges to 16 teachers per country due to the dwindling
needs of the small and aging Greek population in Turkey. Muslim leaders in
Western Thrace complained that the Government erected bureaucratic barriers
to prevent the Turkish teachers from performing their duties for much of
the academic year. In Greece over 8,000 Muslim children attended Turkish-
language primary schools. An additional 150 attended 2 bilingual middle
schools with a religious curriculum. Approximately 700 attended Turkish-
language secondary schools, and approximately 1,300 attended Greek-language
secondary schools. Many Muslims reportedly went to high school in Turkey
due to the limited number of places in the Turkish-language secondary
schools, which are assigned by lottery. Government incentives encourage
Muslim and Christian educators to reside and teach in isolated
The law permits the Minister of Education to give special consideration to
Muslims for admission to universities and technical institutes. The law
requires universities and technical institutes to create a certain number
of places for Muslim students each year; 464 spaces were available in 1998.
The admission exams were taken by 124 Muslim students, and 58 women and 54
men were accepted into universities and technical schools.
The rate of employment of Muslims in the public sector and in state-owned
industries and corporations is much lower than the Muslim percentage of the
population. In Xanthi and Komotini, while Muslims hold seats on the
prefectural and town councils, there are no Muslims among the regular
employees of the prefecture. Muslims in Western Thrace claim that they are
hired only for lower level, part-time work. The Government says that lack
of fluency in written and spoken Greek and the need for university degrees
for high-level positions limit the number of Muslims eligible for
Public offices in Thrace do their business in Greek; the courts provide
interpreters as needed. The office of the nomarch (governor) in Rodopi
province, where many ethnic Turks live, has Turkish-language interpreters
available. A prosecutor in Rodopi issued instructions in 1997 to the
Komotini registrar to stop accepting documents sealed by the government-
appointed muftis unless the language of the documents was Greek and to
reject as unsealed any documents bearing the Arabic-lettered seals used by
the muftis for the last 70 years. The instructions were suspended after
local Muslim officials complained.
Claims of discriminatory denial of Muslim applications for business
licenses, tractor ownership, or property construction diminished greatly in
recent years. However, the development of basic public services
(electricity, telephones, paved roads) in Muslim neighborhoods and villages
continues in many cases to lag far behind that of non-Muslim areas. Muslim
leaders also asserted that the Government routinely withholds permission
from Muslims seeking to change their legal residence, which determines
where they vote, from rural to urban communities within Western Thrace or
from elsewhere in Greece to Thrace. They said permission to change legal
residency from western Thrace to elsewhere in Greece was granted readily,
and charged that the practice was part of a government policy to encourage
Muslim emigration from the region and to prevent the urban concentration of
Muslims in Thrace.
Other than in one multicultural education "pilot school," the Government
does not provide instruction in Greek as a second language to Turcophone
children in the Athens area. Muslim parents report that their children are
unable to succeed in school as a result of this policy. The Government
maintains that Muslims outside of Thrace are not covered by the Treaty of
Lausanne and therefore do not enjoy those rights guaranteed by the
The Government refuses to acknowledge formally the existence and "minority"
status of ethnic groups, principally Slavophones, other than the Muslim
minority specified in the Treaty of Lausanne. As a result some individuals
who define themselves as members of a minority find it difficult to express
their identity freely and to maintain their culture. Northern Greece is
home to an indeterminate number (estimates range widely, from under 10,000
to 50,000 or more) of citizens who are descended from Slavophones. Some
still speak a Slavic dialect, particularly in Florina province. A small
number of them identify themselves as belonging to a distinct ethnic group,
which they call "Macedonian," and assert their right to minority status.
(These self-described ethnic "Macedonians" are hereafter referred to as
"Macedonians.") This assertion generates strong objections among the 2.2
million ethnically and linguistically Greek inhabitants of the northern
Greek region of Macedonia, who also use the term to identify themselves.
The Government refuses to recognize the Slavic dialect as "Macedonian" and
denies that it is a language distinct from Bulgarian. Members of the
minority assert that the Government pursues a policy designed to discourage
use of their dialect. Greek sensitivity on this issue stems from concern
that members of the "Macedonian" minority may have separatist aspirations.
Greece's dispute with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia over that
country's name heightened this sensitivity.
Government harassment and intimidation of some of these people, which has
included denying their right to association (see Section 2.b.), monitoring
activists' meetings with human rights investigators (see section 2.d.),
subjecting them to unusual searches and other harassment at border
crossings, and accusing activists publicly of being agents of a foreign
government, continued at a reduced level. In July a group calling itself
the "Association of Refugee Children of Aegean Macedonia," based outside
Greece, held a picnic in Edessa. It was the first time that the Government
allowed such an event to take place. Approximately 75 of the 125
individuals who attempted to enter Greece for the picnic were admitted.
The Government said that the others lacked necessary visas, although picnic
organizers accused the Government of denying them admission for political
Roma frequently face discrimination in employment and in housing,
particularly when attempting to rent accommodations. They experience
police abuse more frequently than some other groups, including instances in
previous years when police raided entire Roma camps based on a warrant to
arrest one individual.
The General Secretariat for Adult Education (GSAE), a government agency,
estimated the Romani population to be 150,000 to 200,000 in 1998.
Nonofficial sources estimate the total at 250,000 to 300,000. Most of the
Roma in Western Thrace are Muslim; elsewhere, the majority are Greek
Orthodox. Almost half are permanently settled, mainly in the Athens area.
The other half are mobile, working mainly as agricultural laborers,
peddlers, and musicians throughout the country. The GSAE reports that the
number of Roma who move around the country is decreasing gradually as
families settle into slums in the suburbs of major cities.
A Romani man was killed on April 1 in Partheni, Thessaloniki, when he
refused to stop his car for inspection. Police claimed that they exchanged
gunfire with the subject in self-defense. A court hearing was pending at
year‚s end. Amnesty International charged that in May two Romani teenagers
were beaten while in police custody for attempting to steal ice cream from
a kiosk. A trial was pending at year‚s end.
Romani representatives report that local authorities refuse to register
Roma as legal residents in their municipalities. Until registered with a
municipality, no citizen can vote or exercise other civic rights such as
obtaining an official marriage, commercial, or driver's license or
contributing to social security.
In August the mayor of Evosmos, Thessaloniki, ordered the eviction of 3,500
Roma from a location they had occupied for the past 30 years. The group
subsequently was evicted from four other locations within the next 15 days.
The Ministry of Defense allocated land and houses at a former army camp for
the group to occupy for the next 5 years. Human rights monitors charge
that the Government delayed renovating the camp in reaction to protests by
neighboring residents who do not want the Roma in their vicinity. The
Government provided funding to several other municipalities to transfer
Roma settlements to new areas supplied with water, sewers, and electricity.
It intends to provide portable mobile housing in addition to "non-mobile"
housing for Roma who demonstrate financial need.
Government policy is to encourage the integration of Roma. The Prime
Minister has designated a member of his staff to coordinate the efforts of
all government ministries having a role in their integration. Poverty,
illiteracy, and social prejudice nevertheless continue to plague large
parts of the Romani population; these problems are most severe among the
Roma who are mobile or who live in slums. Although the GSAE conducts
education and training programs for them, the illiteracy rate among Roma is
estimated at 80 percent. The Ministry of Education established a system of
identity cards designed to permit students to change schools easily as
their parents move and is developing a system of satellite schools for
The integration of Roma into social security systems is quite low. It is
estimated that 90 percent of Roma are not insured by the public social
security systems, since they are unable or unwilling to make the required
contributions. As are all qualified Greek citizens, indigent Roma are
entitled to free health care. However, their access to health care is at
times hindered by the fact that their encampments are located far from
public health facilities.
In June the Ministry of Health and Welfare initiated several projects
addressing the chronic problems of the Roma community. The projects
include training courses for civil servants, policemen, and teachers to
"increase sensitivity to the problems of the Roma," development of teaching
materials for Roma children, and the establishment of youth centers in
areas close to Roma communities. The Ministry has already established six
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The Constitution and subsequent legislation provide for the right of
association. All workers, with the exception of the military, have the
right to form or join unions. Police have the right to form unions but not
Approximately 30 percent of workers (nearly 1 million persons) are
organized in unions. Unions receive most of their funding from a Ministry
of Labor organization, the Workers' Hearth, which distributes mandatory
contributions from employees and employers. Workers, employers, and the
state are represented in equal numbers on the board of directors of the
Workers' Hearth. Approximately 10 public sector unions have dues-
withholding provisions in their contracts, in addition to receiving
Workers' Hearth subsidies.
Over 4,000 unions are grouped into regional and sectoral federations and 2
umbrella confederations, 1 for civil servants and 1, the General
Confederation of Greek workers (GSEE), for private sector employees. The
GSEE and the ADEDY announced that they would merge in the next 2 years.
Unions are highly politicized, and there are party-affiliated factions
within the labor confederations, but day-to-day operations are not
controlled by political parties or the Government. There are no
restrictions on who may serve as a union official.
Legal restrictions on strikes include a mandatory period of notice, which
is 4 days for public utilities and 24 hours for the private sector.
Legislation mandates a skeleton staff during strikes affecting public
services, such as electricity, transportation, communications, and banking.
Public utility companies, state-owned banks, the postal service, Olympic
Airways, and the railroads also are required to maintain a skeleton staff
The courts have the power to declare strikes illegal, although such
decisions are seldom enforced. However, unions complain that this judicial
power serves as a deterrent to some of their membership from participating
in strikes. In 1998 the courts declared a majority of strikes illegal for
reasons such as failure of the union to give adequate advance notice of the
strike or the addition of demands by the union during the course of the
strike. However, no striking workers were prosecuted.
Unions are free to join international associations and maintain a variety
of international affiliations.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
Legislation provides for the right to organize and bargain collectively in
the private sector and in public corporations. These rights are respected
in practice. There are no restrictions on collective bargaining for
private sector employees.
In 1997 and 1998 civil servants were provided with the right to organize
and bargain collectively with the Ministry of Public Administration. The
civil servants confederation is to conduct official negotiations with the
Ministry for the first time in 1999.
In response to union complaints that most labor disputes ended in
compulsory arbitration, legislative remedies were enacted in 1989 that
provided for mediation procedures, with compulsory arbitration as a last
resort. Legislation in 1992 established a National Mediation,
Reconciliation, and Arbitration Organization and applies to the private
sector and public corporations (the military and civil service
Antiunion discrimination is prohibited. The Labor Inspectorate or a court
investigates complaints of discrimination against union members or
organizers. Court rulings have mandated the reinstatement of improperly
fired union organizers.
Three free trade zones operate according to European Union regulations.
The labor laws apply equally in these zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The Constitution prohibits all forced or compulsory labor, including that
performed by children, and the Ministry of Justice enforces this
prohibition. However, the government may declare the "civil mobilization"
of workers in the event of danger to national security, life, property, or
the social and economic life of the country. The International Labor
Organization (ILO) Committee of Experts has criticized this power as
violating the standards of ILO Convention 29 on forced labor. In December,
for the first time in 8 years, the Government invoked the Civil
Mobilization Act to end a strike by customs officials.
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment
The Constitution contains a blanket prohibition of compulsory labor.
Although no specific legislation explicitly prohibits forced and bonded
labor by children, such practices are not known to occur (see Section
6.c.). The minimum age for employment in the industrial sector is 15 years,
with higher limits for certain activities. The minimum age is 12 years in
family businesses, theaters, and the cinema. These age limits are enforced
by occasional Labor Inspectorate spot checks and generally are respected.
However, families engaged in agriculture, food service, and merchandising
often have younger family members assisting them, at least part
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
Collective bargaining between the GSEE and the Employers' Association
determines a nationwide minimum wage. The Ministry of Labor routinely
ratifies this minimum wage, which has the force of law and applies to all
workers. The minimum wage of $21.60 (Dr 6,492) daily and $483 (Dr 133,962)
monthly, effective July 1, is sufficient for a decent standard of living
for a worker and family. The maximum legal workweek is 40 hours in the
private sector and 37ł hours in the public sector. The law provides for at
least one 24-hour rest period per week, mandates paid vacation of 1 month
per year, and sets limits on overtime.
Legislation provides for minimum standards of occupational health and
safety. Although the GSEE has characterized health and safety legislation
as satisfactory, it has charged that enforcement, the responsibility of the
Labor Inspectorate, was inadequate. The Government passed legislation in
June putting the Labor Inspectorate under a central authority in compliance
with ILO Convention 81. Workers do not have the legal right to remove
themselves from situations they believe endanger their health. However,
they have the right to lodge a confidential complaint with the Labor
Inspectorate. Inspectors have the right to close down machinery or a
process for a period of up to 5 days if they see safety or health hazards
that they believe represent an imminent danger to the workers.